The Lighthouse

lighthouseThe Lighthouse
by Alison Moore
2012/192 pages
Genre:  fiction

Moore’s debut novel is so fascinating it made the year’s prestigious Man Booker Prize Short List – not bad – and there were some who argued it should be the winner – (against Bring Up the Bodies?  I think not!)

I have to say the book is nicely written.  This short novel, a novella really,   takes place in several time periods with a middle-aged and newly separated man named Futh (fiction/truth), trekking the Rhine on a sort of vacations,  remembering his past and making errors in his present.  He’s a bumbling sort of guy,  low key, very lonely,  boring, insecure, etc.

Sometimes the point of view switches to a woman named Ester who, with her husband Bernard,  runs a hotel in the fictional tiny-town of Hellhaus  (with a double meaning for English readers –  hell house or bright house – is it both?   This is where Futh mostly stays when he’s not walking.   Fwiw, Ester does a lot more in the bedrooms of the hotel than clean them and her husband knows it.  They have a whole sad history  of their own. tinyDralle-2 dralle-lighthouse-perfume1-1

The lighthouse of the title is a small perfume bottle owned by Futh’s mother and his uncle before that.  There is all sorts of symbolism surrounding this obviously phallic object.  In fact there is an enormous amount of ambiguity and symbolism in the book – how many times do cats sit in laps?  Is this really a book about a boy wanting to sleep with his mother?

Did I enjoy the book?  For the most part yes, the character development was great,  the setting in Germany okay,  the structure actually worked pretty well.   On the downside,  it was a bit too heavy on the symbolism and the ambiguity.   Moore shows the reader what the characters do and think – she doesn’t just tell.  Trouble is that she doesn’t quite tell all – this is sometimes perfect,  but at other times it’s frustrating.  I’m sure Moore will grow in control.

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